The current workforce of millennials aged 18-33 is struggling to keep up with their predecessors – the baby boomers. High levels of anxiety and stress, particularly in fast paced cities like London, are leaving employees sleep deprived, unable to stay in the present moment and barely able to scrape by according to Forbes.
The fear of falling through the net is far higher than it was in pre-millennials, and in a recent APA study, more than 52% of millennials have reportedly lain awake at night, unable to get to sleep as a result of stress. They also report difficulty achieving healthy living goals despite the influx of well-being awareness. Add this to to excessive use of stimulants, self-victimisation and negative mindsets and there’s an army of unfit workers at the base of the economy.
Corporate companies such as eBay, advertising agency Havas and insurance providers Progressive, are just a few examples of businesses investing in corporate wellness. The infiltration of mindfulness, a mental state of awareness of the present moment, positively affects appropriate engagement and performance in the workplace. Invested companies such as Mindfulness in the Workplace provide workshops, one-to-one sessions and group activities. Whil Concepts Ltd also provide a well being app and corporate mindfulness sessions aimed at eradicating the robotic affiliation to city office workers.
Joe Burton, founder and CEO of Whil Concepts Ltd, the well-being and performance experts, reveal that while law firms and advertising agencies are suffering from high turnover rates, healthcare providers are battling with compassion fatigue and high performance expectations. “We’re all expected to be smart these days,“ Burton explains, “but increasingly, it’s important to be able to relate to others, motivate them and be connected to both their success and their wellbeing.”
Stress is expected to cost US businesses over $300 billion this year alone as a result of absenteeism and healthcare costs. Willis Towers Watson found that for 75% of employers, stress is their number one concern: “The human capital costs associated with stress has caused businesses to move quickly to address the rising levels of stress in the workplace,” explains Burton.
The holistic bubble of health, fitness and well-being continues to envelop work and personal lives of employees. In an attempt to encourage millennials to stay on top of their fitness levels and apply similar motifs to their day jobs, boutique workout studios such as Third Space and Equinox are creating lounge spaces with wifi access and plug sockets encouraging members to use the space for work purposes as well as work out. “We do get quite a few members using the space,” says Anna Davies*, a front of house member of Third Space’s Canary Wharf branch. “It’s a clean comfortable area that can be used for lounging or catching up with emails.”
Vanessa King, board member at Action for Happiness and head of the programme Doing Well From The Inside Out, says that “whether it’s fitness studios providing social spaces, or workplaces providing fitness spaces that we interact in – it’s absolutely fantastic.” With intentions to help build wellbeing and resilience in organisations, King believes that by helping employees learn how to positively impact their own performance, they will in turn affect that of others in their teams and wider organisations. “Physical activity is not just good for our bodies, it’s good for our brains,” she continues, “in a number of cases of depression, it’s as good as, if not better than medicine and antidepressants.”
Arguably a corporate responsibility, stress, ongoing disruption, transformation and high expectations aren’t subjective to work. “They [employees] take it home where they interact with their families and their communities, explains King, “it also has an impact on their physical health which has a cost impact for us as a society.”
The sense of self for digitally charged millennials, is highly image driven and disposable due to the fast paced nature of the internet and variety of online personas available to them. “Millennials have reached maturity in a world of screen-based communication devices which have vastly increased the pace of life,” explains Lou Campbell a mindfulness teacher, counselling therapist, stress management specialist and sleep specialist. She is also a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and programmes director at Mindfulness In The Workplace Ltd.
Campbell goes on to explains that the clearest indicator of adult stress, anxiety or depression is a stressful or traumatic childhood as a result of parents with very high expectations of their children. Trauma is more likely to be violence, psychological abuse and/or sexual abuse, but a stressful childhood could also include having parents with very high expectations and many hours of separation every week. Millennials are particularly alienated in regards to their older supervisors due to being birthed into political hostility, high tuition fees and gloomy expectations of home ownership and long-term career uncertainty.
The Whil company blog explains that educating the millennial workforce how to cope when things don’t go to plan, as opposed to growing resentful, should be the initial starting point for businesses. “Financial futures are more uncertain than past generations,” explains Burton, “social media distorts their views on reality, and an always-on mentality has far reaching impacts on their mental well being.” Studies by the American Psychological Association have shown that the effects of technology and modern living have outpaced the human brain at an exponential rate. As a result, self-doubt, anxiety, insomnia and general unhappiness are much higher than other generations.
Long working hours are expected in cities like London with some clients of Whil Concepts Ltd reportedly working 60 plus hour work weeks. In cases like these, compulsory wellness sessions are being assigned. A growing number of people working under these high pressure environments find themselves struggling with self-esteem and perfectionism tendencies.
Companies with higher engagement rates are reportedly 14% more financially successful than their peers. Mindfulness in the Workplace have seen great results with their clients, showing enhanced resilience and improved workplace relationships. This has led to the company doubling in size every quarter over the past 12 months. “Managers should be trained on emotional intelligence skills including self awareness, self regulation, empathy and social skills” argues Burton.
Millennials have grown up believing that they can achieve their wildest dreams due to the array of opportunities and choices available. Endless possibilities, so many doors to open and a bunch of keys to the world. Yet the inability to make a decision due to overstimulation leaves many choosing not to make a decision at all. Named the unhappiest generation in the world, growing evidence reveals that by familiarising mindfulness and compassion as skills, the millennial, tech-savvy employee is more likely to be an asset rather than a hindrance to a business.
“In our company, we all practise mindfulness everyday,” says Campbell, “we also take ‘walking meetings’ whenever possible and do a regular digital detox.” By implementing mindfulness into the workplace, the ability to concentrate, be creative and making quick, effective decisions has vastly improved the work-life balance of employees in the company. Furthermore, by encouraging healthy behaviours and habits, both the physical and mental well being of employees can positively impact teamwork capabilities and financial wellness.
According to the University of Exeter’s department of psychology, “health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well‐being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. Small businesses and multi-billion dollar companies alike are recognising how the health and well being industry translates into the bigger business plan. “Every day at 3:00pm, our employees do a 10-minute mindfulness practice using our own digital training solution,” says Burton, “it’s become the glue that binds our team.”
A major factor in workplace wellness is the relationship with co-workers. According to Forbes, by 2020 50% of the US workforce will be freelancers: “there’s a lot of psychological benefits that come from going to work, over and above the money,” explains King. Working from home can be extremely isolating and it’s the collaboration of people that bring creative innovation and a positive psyche. Looking forward, the merging of wellness and fitness activity with work and personal lives is a guaranteed equation of harmony.